A Statement on the Absence of Afghan Women’s Voices as the World Discusses Taliban Recognition

As an organization dedicated to promoting the human rights of Afghanistan’s women and girls, particularly the right to learn, Canadian Women for Women in Afghanistan is increasingly concerned by the shift in language from many within the international community towards recognition and engagement with a Taliban regime that is brutally stifling the most basic rights of its citizens, particularly women and girls. This language matters because it suggests a normalization of a system which Afghan women’s rights activists and human rights defenders and their allies have repeatedly shown is not normal.

What women and girls in Afghanistan are currently experiencing is nothing short of total gender apartheid, as has been widely acknowledged by the UN Special Rapporteur Richard Bennett, international legal experts and diplomats alike, and which Afghan women are calling to have formally recognized. Yet only last week, we heard suggestions from UN Deputy Secretary General Amena Mohammed that a “pathway to recognition” for the Taliban should be sought.  

Whether these developments are driven by political apathy or a profound sense of uncertainty about what can practically be done to protect the human rights of the Afghan people and the future of their country, the current approach from the global community represents a collective failure. 

This week, Special Envoys from around the world will meet in Doha for a discussion that could have significant implications for the women and girls of Afghanistan, but the voices of these women and girls will be absent. 

During the recent UN Commission on the Status of Women in New York, Afghan women and girls of all ages, from many backgrounds and of all political stripes, stood before the international community and implored us, demanded again and again, that we must not recognize the Taliban.

We are shocked by what is not only the flagrant disregard for the voices and calls of Afghan women, but also the total neglect of pathbreaking UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women Peace and Security, which upholds the demonstrated importance of women’s participation in finding sustainable pathways for societies to emerge from protracted conflict. Excluding women from the talks taking place in Doha, to say nothing of increased calls to recognize the Taliban as anything approaching a legitimate government in Afghanistan, moves in exactly the opposite direction, and risks even deeper catastrophic consequences for Afghanistan’s future. It undermines the credibility and purpose of institutions like the United Nations, as well as the commitment of the international community to human rights and indeed, to human life. 

Afghan women have ideas about what can and must be done to address the challenges ahead and protect their collective futures. They not only deserve but are owed a chance to have those ideas heard and tested. The established convention of disregarding the voices of women and of Afghans has already proven devastating; another way must be sought. How long must the women directly affected by these decisions stand on the sidelines, their clear calls for justice ignored?

CW4WAfghan stands with the women and girls inside Afghanistan, and displaced globally, in calling for their right to be heard. Their calls are clear: do not recognize the Taliban. We in turn call on world leaders, the Government of Canada and other countries that espouse feminist foreign policy to take a clear and unequivocal stand in supporting the women and girls of Afghanistan and against their violent oppressors. It is both a moral duty and an imperative of the global Women’s Peace and Security agenda.